Paulista arrived from Cruzeiro in January. The clubs agreed a six month loan deal with the option for West Ham to offer a three year permanent contract to the player should they wish. The initial reaction to signing a Brazilian striker is one of excitement, because it conjures up images of stylish and spontaneous play. But this was a man who at the age of 28, was yet to make a real name for himself in the football world.
As far as his scoring record with Cruzeiro was concerned, he netted 21 times in 38 games in 2009, 10 times in 30 games in 2010 and then enjoyed a good total of 28 goals in 40 appearances in 2012. About a week after his signing, I heard BBC’s South American football correspondent Tim Vickery talk about him.
It was said that Paulista’s agent had been sending videos of him to Premier League clubs, but with little response. Seeing as the Premier League is known as the greatest league in the world, it is no surprise that someone should push to play in it, even if just to give it a go. Having just been promoted to the Premier League, West Ham could have been his way to bigger and better things in England so the move seemed harmless to both parties.
But Vickery also said that Paulista probably wasn’t physical and strong enough for the Premier League. If he’s better with his feet, maybe this was part of the plan to keep fans a bit happier with all the talk of the “long ball” game. Anyway, the upshot of his signing is that he still hadn’t played first team football in East London, despite many Twitter calls from fans to let him at least make a substitute appearance. These calls followed a good run in the Development Squad for Paulista.
He announced his arrival with a bang, scoring three goals in three games, but this has since slowed down slightly to five goals in 10 games. I have been following the Development Squad (or U21s) quite closely this season, and those first three games showed what a great right foot that man has.
Even since his goals have been less regular, he has shown that his feet are more than able to out-wit defenders and he has a fierce shot on him. I can understand Allardyce and co. not wanting to rush Paulista into first team action and added pressure, but maybe it’s time to experiment with two strikers and use Paulista to partner Andy Carroll instead of opting for Carlton Cole on occasions.
Of course, this could all come back to haunt me in a couple of months if he swans off back to Brazil and launches a Diarra-esque attack on the club via the media. That remains to be seen, but I’d like to think that he has impressed enough to get a chance to be signed. This could be Paulista’s last shot at getting into the Premier League, and I know football is a harsh business and isn’t generally sentimental, but I believe that there is no point in bringing someone in without giving them a good chance.
Maybe once safety is secured, we could see him make an appearance in the last couple of games of the season which could determine his future. I hope the future is bright for Wellington Paulista, wherever he may end up. There’s a lot to be said for someone who can go about the modern game with his head down and shooting boots on whatever the level. There’s one thing that we can always be sure of – the papers (and I) will never be short of a pun with him around.